October 16, 2011
Large Tail Muscle Made Carnivorous Dinosaur Faster
A massive tail muscle made a 23-foot-long carnivorous dinosaur one of the fastest-running (and deadliest) hunters of its era, a University of Alberta researcher has discovered.
According to UPI reports on Friday, Scott Persons, a graduate student in paleontology at the university, used 3D computer models of re-create the tail muscles of the twin-horned Carnotaurus.
Persons discovered that the dinosaur's tail had "a series of tall rib-like bones that interlocked with the next pair in line," which helped support its large caudofemoralis muscle.
That muscle "had a tendon that attached to its upper leg bones. Flexing this muscle pulled the legs backwards and gave Carnotaurus more power and speed in every step," the school said in an October 14 press release.
As a result, the meat-eater "terrorized its plant-eating neighbors in South America" and was "a lot deadlier than first thought."
In fact, according to Persons, Carnotaurus had the largest caudofemoralis muscle of any animal that has ever lived, including those that have died out as well as those still alive today. His findings were published last week in the journal PLoS ONE.
"The interlocked structure of the tail did present one drawback: the tail was rigid, making it difficult for the hunter to make quick turns," the UPI noted. "However, Persons said, what Carnotaurus gave up in maneuverability it made up for in straight-line speed."
The University also reported that, in an earlier study, Persons discovered a similar tail-muscle and leg-power combination in the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Previously, experts had believed that the predator's massive tail served merely as a counterweight to its enormous head, but Persons' paper disclosed that the bulk of the tail would have helped the dinosaur be quicker.
University of Alberta paleontology professor Philip Currie was also credited on the study.
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